Abolishing the Indian?
During the wars of independence, insurgents in Mexico and Peru tried to abol-
ish the term indio, as well as racial categories more generally, on the grounds
that they were incompatible with republican concepts of equality. In Mexico
a series of resolutions revoked colonial classifications. An  law ordered
that official documents should cease classifying people by racial origin, and in
 José María Luis Mora and Alonso Fernández proposed to the Mexican
congress that “indio, in common acceptance as a term of opprobrium for a
large portion of our citizens, be abolished from public usage.”1 Mora went
so far as to assert that in legal terms “Indians no longer exist.”2 In Peru, Ber-
nardo de Monteagudo was the first official to discard the term “Indian”: in
July  he stated that in the future Indians “will be called Peruvians, names
that they will justly value and whose worth they will appreciate more greatly
with every passing day.”3 San Martín, who is often credited with the replace-
ment of “Indian” with “Peruvian,” in fact made his statement that “henceforth
the aborigines will not be called Indians or natives; they are sons and citizens
of Peru and should be known as Peruvians” a month later.4 In other regions
political leaders, without issuing legislation, simply began employing other
words to replace the discredited colonial classifications.
A common replacement for indio (Indian) was indígena (indigene). In the
Oct.  session of the Congress of Cúcuta, for example, representatives
referred to “the Colombian indigenes called Indians in the Spanish [legal]
codes,” and then referred insistently to “indigenes” in the remainder of the
session.5 Mexican pamphleteers likewise referred to “the indigenes, that is,
the Indians (so that everyone is clear whom we mean).”6 In Peru officials be-
gan employing not only “indigene” but also “Peruvian,” in keeping with the
decrees cited above. Mark Thurner notes that in the early s the term “Pe-
ruvian” was used to refer specifically to the “ex-indios” rather than to Peru-
vian nationals in general.7 Just as often officials simply spoke of “the people
formerly known as Indians.” The  constitution of the Colombian state of
Mariquita and the Venezuelan  constitution thus referred to “the section
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